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The Upside of Upcycling

Exploring the hot new eco-friendly building trend

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Builders and designers are rethinking the way they finish homes. There’s a bounty of raw and neglected materials out there and shifting our views on how materials are sourced can create surprising results. Some builders and designers may even be looking in your dumpster!

 

Upcycling is the term, and hot new trend, for using materials in a way that is significantly different from their original purpose, but still maintains—and can even increase—their value. There’s no need to sacrifice quality when repurposing materials.

Planned obsolescence and the idea that the economy could only survive if things were not built to last, but to be replaced, is itself becoming obsolete. The challenging economic times and ever-growing awareness about environmental impacts are forcing people and companies to consider new ways of reusing materials traditionally headed for the trash heap.

This growing trend is now reaching far beyond typical goods like glass, metal and plastic. Not only is upcycling often a smart financial move, it can add beauty and value to your home. The green building trend may be in high gear but there is one source that is often overlooked—salvaged supplies!

Reclaimed beams were milled into a wood-plank countertop. Tractor seats were found at a yard sale and new metal legs were created. Leftover rebar was turned into a rustic railing adding depth and texture to the balcony and stairway.

Left: Reclaimed beams were milled into a wood-plank countertop. Tractor seats were found at a yard sale and new metal legs were created. Right: Leftover rebar was turned into a rustic railing adding depth and texture to the balcony and stairway.

 

An Upcycler

Josh Glick is a custom homebuilder and partner in Ketchum-based, Bashista Construction Corporation, and he’s also my husband. Well before we met, Josh had the opportunity to acquire a 200-year-old New England barn. He jumped at the chance and quickly rounded up 25 friends and family who spent a week helping him deconstruct, tag, palletize and ship his new—yet old—barn to Idaho.

The original barn stood on a sheep farm in Putney, Vermont, where Josh lived while attending college. No longer standing on its own, it was perfect for his plan. “I’d always dreamed of resurrecting an old structure from an architectural and historical perspective,” says Josh.

Josh’s work, passion and skills are dedicated to timeless design and the dying art of true carpentry, so the “hand made” elements of the old barn fit his vision perfectly. Growing up in Vermont, he learned about carpentry at a young age. He and his best friend felled trees, hewed them by hand and built “luxury” forts. That’s where he developed a love for the possibilities hidden inside trees.

Every element of the fireplace facade is reclaimed or sidecycled. The mantel is part of the 200 year-old barn. The bench was a watering trough before it was upcycled.

Left: Every element of the fireplace facade is reclaimed or sidecycled. The mantel is part of the 200 year-old barn. Right: The bench was a watering trough before it was upcycled.

 

“Working with Frank (Bashista) for so many years has taught me to continually expand my knowledge and refine my skills. Many of our clients have spent the majority of their lives working toward building their dream homes,” says Josh. “Through those experiences, I learned how to create my own dream.”

When Josh and I met, he was still looking for the perfect property to raise the barn, which had sat idle for three years. Josh spent those years collecting reusable materials—framing components, light fixtures, appliances and lumber—anything he could find from teardowns, demos and remodels that had been earmarked for the trash heap. Many of his co-workers even jokingly called him the “Dumpster Diver” because he routinely crawled into construction dumpsters to pull out materials he thought to save from the landfill. 

Josh rescued huge amounts of rock from burial,
saved discarded finish wood, degraded structural beams
and piles of seemingly useless rebar,
and turned them into works of art.

So it was no surprise to see him crawling in the dumpster to salvage usable materials that I had tossed when it was time to build our house. “It’s not about being a Dumpster Diver, it’s about reducing waste and paying attention to what can be used elsewhere,” he said.

“I realized that a lot of materials were tossed out and with a little vision and effort I could create a pile of usable material,” he says. Regardless of the green narrative, the items that were created are precise pieces of craftsmanship with a rich history. Josh rescued huge amounts of rock from burial, saved discarded finish wood, degraded structural beams and piles of seemingly useless rebar, and turned them into works of art.

 

Sun Valley Magazine encourages its readers to post thoughtful and respectful comments on all of our online stories. Your comments may be edited for length and language.

Old to new | New to old
Jan 14, 2013 05:01 pm
 Posted by  jamie

Josh,

Hi, my husband and I are in the stages of planning our river house. When I saw the railing with the used rebar I knew this was just what I wanted. I showed it to my builder today and he was worried about rust. Did you have problems with rust and if not what did you do to prevent it. I do not want to paint it because I feel that I will lose the rustic look I want. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Thanks,
Jamie Parnell

Jan 17, 2013 08:31 am
 Posted by  ThePixelBakery

Hi Jamie:
Thanks for posting. It's Nancy here and the rebar was rusted when we put it up and that was the look we wanted. It has not been a problem rubbing off unless you take a clean white towel directly to it. Josh can answer all your questions and you are welcome to contact him directly at 208-622-7900. That his business phone and I'm sure he would be happy to discuss the details with you or your contractor.

Take care, Nancy

Apr 17, 2014 09:21 am
 Posted by  nikkin

I was wondering if you have had any trouble with your wood countertops? White spots, trouble with wetness, etc.?

This has been flagged
Apr 22, 2014 08:54 am
 Posted by  Mac

Thanks for the question. Here's Nancy's response:
We used a food grade wax that we put on every few years but the beauty of our counter is that it shows the signs of life. It does not show stains because the wax protects from most of that (and any potential water damage). There are no white spots. We stained it dark after we beat the snot out of it with bike chains, hammer heads chisels and other items. The stain soaked deeper into the grooves giving it an uneven color to begin with.

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